‘Be Flexible’ is a key piece of advice when it comes to Rural Touring. From working in spaces of all shapes and sizes to understanding the importance of an interval and a raffle. For a really successful rural tour, you need to be prepared to adapt – and see this as an opportunity for pushing your work further, not a limitation!
But Nick Cassenbaum, one of our New Directions Showcase artists from this year says it much more succinctly than I do!
Brand new to the world of rural touring and not really sure what it’s all about? We teamed up with Ian McMillan an NRTF favourite, and advocate for the sector to create a video to introduce everyone to the fantastic creative whirlpool that is rural touring. Watch the full video here…
National Charity Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) and their 38 member organisations are running a week long campaign to celebrate England’s 10,000 Village Halls.
Village Halls are an integral part of rural communities but are often overlooked. Think back over the years; birthday parties, christenings, weddings and funerals. Key moments in our lives – all treading the boards of our Village Halls.
This year we think about how Village Halls provide a space for communities to come together, something ever more pertinent with the rising number of people affected by loneliness.
Rural communities in particular are seeing diminishing services and social areas, such as the closing of pubs and shops. When these community spaces disappear, it becomes harder to connect, meet new people and have that much needed interaction.
ACRE believe Village Halls play a huge part in tackling these issues, for example providing community shops and pop up pubs where there are none, as well as social groups for older and younger people alike.
From the 22 January to the 28 January 2019, every county will see a series of events to bring people together and celebrate these crucial rural spaces. The campaign is supported by Defra with an appearance in the week from Lord Gardiner of Kimble.
Events include performances from Ian McMillan, renowned poet and broadcaster and children’s author and illustrator Steve Antony.
In addition, the NRTF has commissioned stand-up poet Kate Fox to write and perform a piece celebrating village halls.
Villagehallsweek (22-28 Jan) is an initiative started by ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England).
The ACRE Network is formed of ACRE and its members – 38 rural community councils based at county level across England. Many or the RCCs date back 90s years; ACRE was formed in 1987 and is the national voice for the country’s largest rural network, formed of 52,000 grassroots organisations in 11,000 rural communities.
The Launch Event will be at Little Thetford Village Hall in Cambridgeshire. Cambridgeshire ACRE will celebrate the history of Village Halls with appearances from Deputy Lieutenant Mrs Jane Lewin-Smith and the City of Ely Town Crier Mrs Avril Hayter-Smith.
Community Action Suffolk will welcome the support of Defra, with Lord Gardiner of Kimble Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity in attendance. Community Action Northumberland welcomes Ian McMillan renowned poet, writer and radio presenter. Ian supported Village Halls Week 2018 by writing ‘A Teapot as big as The Moon’, a poem especially about Village Halls.
GRCC (Community Action in Gloucestershire) host children’s author and illustrator Steve Antony. Steve will be doing a reading of his new book ‘Amazing’ published January 2019. Stand-up poet Kate Fox has been commissioned by the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) to write and perform a poem. The NRTF are the membership organisation for rural touring schemes, working to bring professional performance art to rural audiences. Kate has recently made two comedy series for BBC Radio 4 called ‘The Price of Happiness’ and her comedy shows have toured from the Edinburgh Fringe to the Southbank Centre.
Stand-up poet Kate Fox has been commissioned by the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) to write and perform a poem. The NRTF are the membership organisation for rural touring schemes, working to bring professional performance art to rural audiences. Kate has recently made two comedy series for BBC Radio 4 called ‘The Price of Happiness’ and her comedy shows have toured from the Edinburgh Fringe to the Southbank Centre.
The National Rural Touring Forum is an organisation that networks, develops, supports delivery of high-quality creative experiences across the UK. The aim of the Forum is to support the strengthening of communities to bring professional work to rural venues. NRTF members are made up of a national network of Rural Touring Schemes who programme menus of events that tour in their region. We also have artist, venue, promoter, producer and festival members all promoting and developing professional work for rural settings.
NRTF provides its members with opportunities for training, making connections, showcases, research, discussion and advocacy. It also develops strategic projects that enable national & international partnerships and commissions.
We sit on Arts Council Rural Stakeholders panels to lobby for support in the rural sectors and highlight the importance of meeting the needs of rural audiences and communities. We also lobby at government level and throughout the creative and cultural sectors. Through research and advocacy, the NRTF aims to promote a better understanding of the value of rural arts and touring. Many Rural Touring Schemes are funded, and some by Arts Council England. This means they can subsidise programmes to bring bigger or more innovative work to their venues. The schemes will spend a lot of their time seeking creative work they believe are suitable and enjoyable for their audiences. They will also challenge audiences to try something new, like dance for instance. Since 2015 the NRTF have joined forces with The Place,
Take Art and China Plate to launch an innovative initiative for making and touring dance performances to and for rural areas. Originally a 3-year project RTDI has now been extended until summer 2021. RTDI offers curated dance Menus to NRTF members.
The feedback from audiences has been astonishing; people who didn’t think ‘Dance was for them’ have come away with a new appreciation for dance as a genre and are keen to see more. Equally the performers get to immerse themselves in the space and directly with audience members.
There is a big difference between performing on the rural touring network and in Blackbox or urban theatres. Rural Touring performers need to be much more self-sufficient, they need to be able to get there, be flexible with get-ins and have minimal or easy set ups. What they get in return is an up close and personal experience with the local community. They will probably arrive with the audience, perform near the audience and then have a drink and a chat with them after. They may even be staying with one. It is not often you get this raw, instant and direct feedback from audience members on your production. It is unique and beautiful and incredibly rewarding. A large part of what the NRTF is about is not underestimating rural audiences.
Funding for the Arts is still a city-centric issue; travelling to large towns and cities to see productions can be time and financially prohibitive. There are also physiological barriers to some who don’t feel as comfortable in larger cultural institutions.
Access to the arts is important for everyone in society. It is reasonable to assume most people appreciate seeing high quality and innovative performance & art. This is what the NRTF is addressing and highlighting.
Across the UK there are currently 30-member schemes, 1,650 promoting groups, 110,000 voluntary hours, 332,000 audience, over £1,000,000 box office sales.
Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) is one of those wonderful under the radar
organisations that helps keep rural Britain thriving. I’m its Chair.
to that heady position began when I became what is known in the rural touring
world as a “promoter” eight years ago. That is, a volunteer who makes a
professional performance happen in their village hall. There are currently
1,659 of us across rural England, Wales and Scotland. And last year, we put on shows
to over 330,000 paying audience members – a whopping 26% increase over the last
of Castle Carrock has about 270 inhabitants and it’s located 10 miles east of
Carlisle, on the edge of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
We still have a good pub, a thriving school, a church and crucially, a village
hall, The Watson Institute. Hosting rural touring shows has been a crucial
mechanism to keep the hall busy and talked about.
It’s a very special place and means the world to me. Built in 1897 by the
richest family in the village originally as a Reading Room, it’s now a
wonderfully intimate village hall and venue where I can sit 65 people at a
push, cabaret style, small tables, candles, subdued lighting and a small stage
that I borrow from the school next door.
There are two seasons to the rural touring year where I live in Cumbria – the spring season and the autumn season. A small organisation called Highlights acts as the clearing house for me as I choose which shows to put on. Highlights is a charity, one of twenty seven such schemes across the UK.
The schemes get some of their money from the Arts Council, some from the box office and some – though less and less – from local authorities. It means that they can help subsidise more “risky” shows, encouraging more confident promoters to try out shows that might on paper be more difficult to sell. And the schemes are affiliated to the NRTF which advocates for rural touring as well as helping to drive a central strategy. A recent three year campaign to get professional dance into village halls – yes, dance into village halls – has been a huge success.
This short form is designed to help you asses whether or not your show is Rural Touring ready. We take you through the very basic needs of rural touring and give you a list of things to consider. We also point you to other helpful resources and pages along the way. Please note this form is NOT a way of submitting your show to be considered for touring but should be used as a tool to equip yourself with the knowledge you need to approach schemes.